Written by Ana Davis
During the festive season it’s almost inevitable that we end up indulging in too much rich Christmas fare. The price we may pay is feeling bloated, sluggish and gassy. You could reach for the antacids, or you can turn to yoga for a natural solution. This sequence of postures is designed to massage and tone the abdominal organs, facilitating digestion and balancing your metabolism, leaving you feeling lighter and ready to face the further digestive challenges of New Years’!
1. Supta Virasana
Come into seated ‘hero’s pose’, heels on either side of the hips, toes pointing backwards, and slowly lower yourself back onto a bolster. If you are tighter through the ankles and thighs you might find it more comfortable to raise your buttocks on a brick or folded blanket and to raise your support on the bolster with additional long-folded blankets. Stay here for as long as is comfortable, breathing slow, deep even breaths.
2. Supine Pawamuktasana variations
a) One knee to chest – draw your right knee towards your right armpit, hands interlaced around the outside of the knee as you extend the left leg along the floor, foot dorsiflexed. On an inhalation move the knee away from you, elbows extended. As you exhale, raise your head and shoulders off the mat and draw the knee back in to your armpit, as if you were trying to touch the forehead to the knee. Repeat up to 5 times on each side.
b) Apanasana – bend up both knees to the chest and take each knee cap into each hand. On an inhale move your knees away from you, extending elbows, and as you breathe out draw the knees back into the chest, initiating this movement from the lower belly, hollowing navel back to spine. Repeat up to 10 times. Then circle the knees slowly one way, and then the other to completely relax the lower back.
3. Vajrasana variations
a) Baddha Urdvha Hastasana – come up to sitting on your heels. Interlace your hands and raise arms overhead so palms are parallel to ceiling and elbows are straight without hunching shoulders up around ears. Hold here for several breaths, lengthening your tail down towards the ground at the same time as stretching up through the spine, lifting floating ribs away from hips.
b) Twist – as you exhale release the interlock of hands and spiral around to the right so that left hand is on outside of right knee and right fingertips are on the floor behind you. Stay here for several breaths then raise your arms overhead again and twist to the other side.
4. Adho Mukha Savasana
Come into Adho Mukha Virasana, then turn your toes under and lift your sitting bones up and back into the Downward Facing Dog Posture. Stay here for up to 10 breaths, engaging Uddiyana bandha as you do (see an earlier article on bandhas for instructions on how to engage Uddiyana bandha).
5. Paripurna Navasana
From Down Dog, jump or step through so that you are sitting in Dandasana. Bend up the knees and take the hands behind the thighs and left feet off the floor so you come into half-navasana. If you can, straighten legs completely, lifting through the chest and drawing your lower back in. Hold for up to 5 slow breaths then rest in the Cosmic Egg. Repeat 2–3 more times for a good tummy-workout!
Come back into Dandasana. Bend up legs and place hands on shins or outsides of feet – depending on your flexibility. The aim is to get the torso to lie flat along the thighs. Then, if you can keep the connection between the torso and thighs, begin to gradually straighten legs some, or all of the way. Keep the feet dorsi-flexed and try to maintain the length of both the dorsal and frontal spine. Hold in your deepest stretch for up to 10 breaths.
7. Salambha Sarvangasana (shoulderstand)
Roll back through the spine to a supine position then swing the legs up and over-head into a half-shoulderstand position with feet in a direct line with the eye-line. Draw the shoulder-blades down and together and the elbows towards each other so that you can sit the sacrum comfortably in the hands, fingers pointing upwards. Hold for as long as is comfortable focusing on lengthening and softening the out-breath.
8. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
From shoulderstand, see if you can drop one then and then the other foot to the ground, whilst still supporting the hips with the hands to come into a bridge pose. Hold and breathe into the chest for up to 5 breaths and then take hands out to the side and slowly roll down through the spine.
9. Ardha Jatara Parivartanasana
Rest on the back in savasana position for several breaths before drawing knees to chest and bringing arms out to the side to form a T-shape. As you exhale, scoop the navel to the spine and slowly lower the legs to the right, seeing if you can keep the left shoulder blade open, onto the ground. Turn the head to gaze at the left hand. Hold for several breaths, squeezing the exhale out of the abdomen to deepen the twist. Then, on exhale, as you engage the abdominals bring the knees back to centre and repeat the twist to the left. Finish by wrapping the hands around the knees and drawing the thighs into the torso.
10. Viparita Karani
Bring a bolster parallel to the wall, and a few centremetres out from the wall. Come to bring your right hip into the wall and then swing the legs up the wall and shuffle the bottom as close as possible to the wall. The bolster should be supporting the lower back and the pelvis remains parallel to the floor, with a sense of the tail-bone descending to the ground. You can buckle a strap around the upper legs, just above the knees, and place an eye-bag on the eyes. Relax here, and really allow the belly to soften.
Roll to the side out of Legs up the wall and come to lie flat on your back. You can have a folded-blanket under your head, and a bolster under your knees to support the lower back. Let go of all control of your breath and just allow your mind be with the natural rhythm of your breath. Relax for 5–10 minutes.